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Burrell Youth Basketball Program threatened by school district fee

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 12:46 a.m.

A nearly three-decades-old youth basketball program could meet its end if the Burrell School District insists it pay for using a school gymnasium for its games.

The Burrell Youth Basketball Program had nearly 100 children in fourth through seventh grades participate last year, program coordinator Butch Liput said.

Liput called the program “low budget” and said it would not be able to continue if it has to pay a $50 fee each time it uses the gym at Huston Middle School. It hasn't had to pay to use the gym before.

Liput said he'll follow school board members' advice and ask for the fee to be waived. If a waiver isn't given, “it would be the end of the program,” he said.

The school board on Tuesday gave initial approval to the revised use of school facilities policy. The board has to vote on the policy a second time before it is official but the board allowed the administration to begin charging the fee immediately.

The $50 fee would be charged to groups that have outside spectators attend an event or for use of the high school swimming pool, Superintendent Shannon Wagner said. School-sponsored and school-affiliated groups are excluded from the event fee.

Burrell Youth Basketball would not be charged to use Bon Air Elementary School for weekday practices. Board President Thomas Klebine said district officials felt charging for that would be too much of a burden.

Klebine said the fees are meant to help the district recover its costs when groups use district facilities.

“Our problem is money for everything — it's not there,” board member Deborah Kinosz said. “The school district can no longer pick up the money.”

Vice President Ronald Slater Jr. said they knew the policy could have unintended consequences.

“We know there are some that will be harmed by this,” he said.

Kinosz said they tried to craft a policy that would be “fair and equitable” to all and expressed support for Liput's program.

“We're absolutely in favor of what you're doing,” she said. “Our problem is money, money, money with everything we're doing.”

Burrell Youth Basketball starts in January and has games over seven straight Saturdays, Liput said. He said all of his help is volunteer, including himself.

“It's a very well-run program. It's not a fly-by-night,” he said. “All they're doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Liput said the program is about more than basketball.

“We teach a lot of things. Discipline is a big thing,” he said.

In other business

• The school board gave initial approval to revisions to policies clarifying when the district will cover the cost of participation in athletic and extracurricular activities, tournaments and other activities.

The policies require the district to pay for travel and other costs for athletic events affiliated with the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and competitions for academic groups like the Math and Quiz Bowl teams. But additional athletic tournaments and events for other groups would need to be funded by the groups.

The board approved implementing the policies pending final approval.

• The school board approved an agreement with National Network of Digital Schools Management Foundation to provide cyber curriculum for interested Burrell elementary students.

The district offers its own cyber school but does not have a full curriculum of its own for elementary children.

The curriculum will be targeted for students in kindergarten through fifth grade this school year.

About 10 of the district's 30-some cyber students are of elementary age. The district hopes to attract some of them to its own program, which would cost less.

Elementary students in the district's cyber program would be able to participate in activities such as field trips and class parties.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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